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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Maybe I won’t cancel my Netflix subscription

Dave+Chappelles+career+started+while+he+was+in+high+school+at+Duke+Ellington+School+of+the+Arts+in+Washington%2C+DC+where+he+studied+theatre+arts.+At+the+age+of+14%2C+he+began+performing+stand-up+comedy+in+nightclubs.+Shortly+after+graduation%2C+he+moved+to+New+York+City+where+he+quickly+established+himself+as+a+major+young+talent.+Photo+by+John+Bauld+Creative+Commons+2.0+Generic+license.
Photo by Photo by John Bauld

Dave Chappelle’s career started while he was in high school at Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Washington, DC where he studied theatre arts. At the age of 14, he began performing stand-up comedy in nightclubs. Shortly after graduation, he moved to New York City where he quickly established himself as a major young talent. Photo by John Bauld Creative Commons 2.0 Generic license.

“Do not abort DaBaby.” 

*Pause for laughter.* 

This is one of many “Did he just say that?” lines in the newest Dave Chappelle-Netflix collaboration, “The Closer.” In this show, Chappelle, arguably the greatest comedian of all time, contorts multi-faceted misfortune, confusion amid the COVID-19 pandemic and race-based discrimination into a series of painstaking punchlines. 

 Chappelle’s shifty expressions pair wonderfully with his clean-cutting declarations, declarations which slice through the protective layers of discomfort blanketing grave topics like suicide, womanhood and the state of America. His voice squeezes into a code switch — an octave or two above belligerent — as he delivers unsolicited snipes to people of all dispositions. Early on, Chapelle declares, “I’m going all the way.” Before we know it, his cisgendered, Black, heterosexual perspective on the affairs of LGBTQ+ members, most notably, the trans community, pulls viewers into the proverbial kitchen, and people did not like the heat. It’s me. I’m “people.” Well, one of many that is. 

In response, both members and allies of the transgender community at Netflix protested the notorious special, but their efforts proved futile; Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos cited the company’s ongoing “commitment to creative freedom” for their allegiance to Chappelle. Outside Netflix, the media-verse has swelled with commitments to Chappelle’s first amendment rights, transphobic ideology in light of his friendships with transgender people and the argument that today’s “gays” are too sensitive

 Supporters and identifiers have since condemned — or rather, canceled — “The Closer” and thereby the mastermind behind it all. Virtual pitchforks pointing down at his neck, and torches lit to burn the fortress of his legacy, Chappelle recently addressed a crowd to not only share his unrepentance but to shed light on the multitude of film festivals, production companies and distribution centers who no longer stand with him. He posits that this battle is about corporate interests aimed at controlling his creative expression.

To an extent, I agree. 

This isn’t Dave Chappelle versus the LGBTQ+ community, the media nor the first amendment — this is “Dave Chappelle,” a man sometimes referred to as a “thought leader” or “comedic genius,” making scurrilous comments on a worldwide stage in his typical fashion. Chapelle’s comments are an invalidation of the truths of marginalized groups. Take Black LGBTQ+ folks. Chappelle says that, “gay people are minorities until they need to be white again,” but if you’re Black and queer, you can’t relate. Chapelle’s stance is a confirmation of the transphobic, homophobic and prejudice-infused sentiments that fuel real-world violence and discrimination  — never mind what Chappelle intended. 

So far, 2021 is slated to be the deadliest year for transgender and gender-nonconforming people ever. *Pause for laughter.* A majority of those victims are people Chappelle fails to mention when he requests that the trans community stops “punching down” on “his people.” Who are Chappelle’s people? Black people? Men? TERFS? Answer: people who believe that “gender is a fact,” that if you weren’t born with identifying female characteristics, you’re off the list of people to fight for. *Pause for laughter.* I’m no comedian, but the violence inflicted upon the scarcely protected trans community is far from funny. And if the same type of jokes were being told by a white man about Black people I would bet Chapelle would join me in my outrage. 

As much as it pains me, Chappelle understood the assignment: people laughed. Too many people laughed, actually. Luckily laughter doesn’t claim lives. That’s the role of hatred and ignorance. But it isn’t Chappelle’s words so much as the harmful, and potentially fatal implications of them. So no, we can’t police speech, nor should we attempt to do so. But we can bring attention to the violence inflicted upon trans people instead of rushing to the defense of a comedian whose assertions embolden people who threaten the lives he can only empathize with. 

*Pause for laughter.* 

Jordan Nixon is a psychology senior and opinion writer for The Battalion.

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